The transit alert parking area at March Air Reserve Base, Calif., was the brief resting place of a very awkward looking aircraft, referred to as the â€œSuper Guppy,â€ on June 28. It was just a quick gas-and-go for the flight crew and their hulking aircraft, but for onlookers from March ARB, it was probably a once-in-a-lifetime event.
Bystander Val Ubaldo, 452d Installation Personnel Readiness section said without hesitation, â€œI donâ€™t know what it is.â€ Curiosity, amazement and wonderment, were part of the â€œwow-factorâ€ that kept him fixated on the oddly shaped aircraft. He could not resist asking flight line personnel servicing the aircraft questions about the aircraftâ€™s shape, mission and why it was here. When told it was a NASA aircraft transporting the space shuttle trainerâ€™s crew compartment, his search for answers was satisfied so he continued to look on while taking a few pictures.
The Super Guppy sprouted wings in 1962, after being specially designed from the base of a KC-97 and a Stratocruiser. The aircraft were cut in half horizontally, extended 16 feet, then grossly expanded in diameter, taking on the image of a guppy with a swollen cranium.
They were initially assigned as transport platforms for the European Space Agency, but after noting the aircraftâ€™s versatility, NASA decided to join the list of users.
The Super Guppy has the capacity to carry up to 26 tons of cargo. Its cargo compartment is 25 feet tall, 25 feet wide, and 111 feet long. The nose of the aircraft opens more than 200 degrees to the side, allowing for easy uploading and downloading of cargo.
â€œWhen fully loaded with cargo, we get about 240 knots of true airspeed,â€ said â€œRay-Jâ€ Johnson, aircraft commander. â€œWe are not a performance-driven platform, because of our payload and shape. We have to fly at low altitudes, which greatly increases our fuel consumption.â€
â€œWe are moving about 3500 pounds of cargo today for NASA, but we can also be contracted to move cargo for other entities,â€ said Johnson, who is also an astronaut.
The Guppy received a full complement of ground services from the March transit alert crew and then continued on its journey to Travis Air Force Base, Calif.